It seems every Blues singer has a great story to tell. After all, singing The Blues is really story-telling set to music that connects personally with a listener’s own life experiences. Luther “Badman” Keith has a great story to tell and really great music to share.
Unlike most artists, Luther never played an instrument till he was 30 and he never performed professionally till he was 45. Yet despite the late start, he has produced 4 popular CDs, has recorded more than 50 songs, and has been rocking the stages at Detroit’s hottest venues and major events for years. Some late-bloomers find a way to flourish.
As a student at The University of Detroit in the 70s, Luther earned a Journalism degree and later landed a job as a reporter and columnist for The Detroit News. He eventually became the Chief Economics Correspondent and Business Editor for the paper and was later inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. His career was a straight-line path of news media. But something profound happened along the way. He got bit by The Blues.
In 1980, at the age of 30, Luther was visiting Rick’s Café in Ann Arbor to see legendary Blues guitarist, Luther Allison, perform. He became immediately engrossed by the music of this famed artist bearing his own name. It was a transformative moment. Luther was so inspired by the experience that the following week he purchased a used electric guitar so he could start learning to play. Blues guitar would become his passion.
Despite his diligence and his relentless passion, Luther admits that he wasn’t very good at the guitar for a long time. But he says, “I was just too stubborn to give up.” In 1983, while watching Luther Allison perform at The Soup Kitchen in Detroit, a friend persuaded the artist to invite Luther Keith up on stage to jam with him. He did and that experience further fueled Luther’s drive to become a Blues artist.
In 1995, a fan told Luther that he was “sounding really good” and that he should recruit some great musicians and start a Blues band. It was another key moment in the evolution of Luther’s music career.
Luther formed a band and spent the next few years working the local nightclub scene to hone his performance skills. In 1998, after doing a really hot show at The Soup Kitchen, Luther’s drummer complimented his performance by saying, “Luther Keith, you’re a Bad Man!”. The slogan stuck and in 1999 Luther released his first CD of original songs entitled, “Badman”. He was now Luther Badman Keith. It would eventually become his Brand. In 2000, a promoter who had heard Luther perform was so impressed that he booked Luther for a multi-city tour of Belgium. He played for appreciative crowds in Brussels and Antwerp. That helped “raise his game” and it gave Luther a new perspective on being a performer.
In 2003, Luther released his second CD entitled, “Thunder In My Blues”, and continued playing local nightclubs. All the while, Luther was still working in executive positions at The Detroit News. Luther’s words were having literary as well as the musical impact on thousands of people.
Then things started rolling. In 2006, Luther played in the International Blues Challenge. In 2008, his Blues song, “Cooking in the Kitchen”, was used in a major television campaign. And in 2009, Luther landed a feature story in Big City Blues Magazine.
In 2010, Luther released his 3rd CD entitled, “Blues Nation”. For the next few years he continued to perform the songs from his first 3 CDs at nightclubs and festivals all around Detroit to build his fan base.
In 2015, Luther released his 4th CD entitled, “Bluesmen are Kings”, which features a salute to Muddy Waters and a song about his home town of Detroit. It received numerous industry accolades.
In 2016, Luther performed at Cobo Center for the prestigious “Points of Light” awards and then closed out the year as one of the featured acts at the New Year’s Eve D-Drop at Cadillac Square with a crowd of over 3,000 people loving the rhythms he created.
Over the years, Luther has played at Cliff Bell’s, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Bert’s Place, Callihan’s, Harbor House, Nancy Whiskey’s, Rosie O’Grady’s, Guy Hollerin’s, The Blue Goose Inn, The 1917 Bistro, and Music Hall. A very special moment came when Luther performed for actor, Morgan Freeman, at his popular Blues club, “Ground Zero”, in Memphis.
Luther has also performed at The Ferndale Blues Festival, The Windsor Blues Fest, The Campus Martius Summer Concert Series, The Chene Park Concert Series, and The Arts Beats & Eats Music Festival.
Luther has been nominated for five awards at The Detroit Music Awards and has won the award for Outstanding Blues Songwriter. He also won The Detroit Blues Challenge Award.
Every Blues singer seems to have a great story to tell. This is Luther’s. Despite his late start, he never gave up on his passion. It’s inspiration for all of us who have dreams.